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New Zealand study finds investing in cycling and walking reduces car use and improves air quality

Researchers estimate 1 per cent fall in emissions but say impact could be higher due to substitution shorter trips that cause more pollution

A new study from New Zealand has shown that investment in facilities for cyclists and pedestrians leads to lower levels of car use and reduces carbon emissions.

The study is claimed to be the first conducted worldwide to have established a link between building cycling and walking infrastructure and lower levels of air pollution.

It’s a subject however we have visited regularly here on – for example, research published earlier this year found that children in London’s first ‘Mini Holland’ borough, Waltham Forest, will enjoy greater life expectancy due to efforts to promote cycling and walking and reduce car use.

The New Zealand study was carried out by researchers from Victoria University and the University of Otago, Wellington, reports the Otago Daily Times.

They analysed the effect of cycle paths and pedestrian walkways installed in 2011 in New Plymouth and Hastings.

They discovered that during the following three years, total kilometres travelled fell by 1.6 per cent and carbon emissions by 1 per cent.

Associate Professor Michael Keall, the lead author of the study, said: "This is good news for our agenda to reduce carbon emissions, which is essential to meet our international targets and of course to contribute to stabilising the climate.”

According to co-author Dr Caroline Shaw, the actual reduction in carbon emissions is likely to be higher than that 1 per cent figure.

She explained that the car journeys most likely to be substituted with cycling or walking are shorter ones, which have higher levels of emissions per kilometre.

She said: "It is also important to note that we would expect the more extensive networks of cycle lanes which some councils are now putting in, to have an even bigger response.

"It is also important to note that we would expect the more extensive networks of cycle lanes which some councils are now putting in, to have an even bigger response," she added.

Critics of London’s Cycle Superhighways, including the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association, claim that the infrastructure causes increased congestion and thereby air pollution, something that Mayor of London Sadiq Khan firmly rejected last week.

Last year, the charity Cycling UK described as “out of date” members of the House of Lords who repeated the claim during a debate on air quality that building cycle lanes leads to more pollution.




Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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